Do pawns disregard Einstein?

by Jonathan Speelman
9/19/2021 – A pawn promotion is a huge event in a chess game, as the energy garnered by the pawn advancing up the board is transformed in a most un-Einsteinian way (surely a pawn’s advance doesn’t create that much energy) into serious amounts of matter. Star columnist Jon Speelman looks at overwhelming pawn avalanches, and analyses a game in which Albert Einstein got the better of Robert Oppenheimer. | Pictured: Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer in 1947

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[Note that Jon Speelman also looks at the content of the article in video format, here embedded at the end of the article.]

I was idly watching a fairly random blitz game recently when one of the players had to underpromote. Of course, he had ‘autopromote’ set and there was a significant pause while he sorted himself out and was in fact in time to complete the underpromotion and win before he was flagged.

Albert EinsteinSince I don’t play bullet (no problem with speed of thought, but not fast enough with a mouse) I choose not to autopromote. This has cost me the occasional blitz game, but it does make online chess seem slightly more like the “real” over the board version, and is in some ways fitting. After all, a pawn promotion is a huge event in a chess game, as the energy garnered by the pawn advancing up the board is transformed in a most un-Einsteinian way (surely a pawn’s advance doesn’t create that much energy) into serious amounts of matter.

A fortnight ago, I looked at some pawn “avalanches” in which a player gave up a considerable amount of material to get a phalanx of passed pawns which overwhelmed the enemy. Readers kindly suggested some more of these, and I’m looking at them today. We’ve also got a chess game by Einstein himself against the “father of the atomic bomb” Robert Oppenheimer. I’ve also looked at a moment from the recent Norway Chess Tournament where while promoting  and beating Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin had to be very exact.


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Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.
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Fritzpa Fritzpa 9/28/2021 06:03
Hi Frits Fritschy.

No the Fritz is nothing to do with chess or computers. Some years ago we had a pair of ginger girl cats called Fritzy and Matseka (possibly Matsika it was a long time ago) and so I was approximately Fritzpa. It seemed a decent name for ChessBase though I've never tried to hide my identity.


Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 9/22/2021 10:41
Now we're at it (fakes, I mean): there is a thing that's puzzling me. You're not my father; then it would have been Fritspa (well, in Dutch). Nor are you the inventor of the Fritz program, because that was Frans Morsch (sharing my dad's first name). You use a nickname, which usually is meant, for whatever reason, to hide one's identity, but you sign your comment with your own name. By the way, I'm not Friedrich Friedel in disguise; I use the name that was given to me at my birth. Other chessbase authors use nicknames as well, reacting in the comments part. And (after some time) make clear that they are also author of the article. Rather confusing – and, as I wrote, puzzling.
Fritzpa Fritzpa 9/22/2021 01:43
I have no idea whether the "Einstein v Oppenheimer" game is real but indeed it is sufficiently bad plausibly to be so.

Obviously just there for the column's title.


Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 9/22/2021 12:19
There is no proof the game was played, but neither of the opposite. At least the game is bad enough for having been played by two people with other things on their mind. Why would anyone produce a fake game that's this bad?
e-mars e-mars 9/21/2021 09:48
@ngnn fake isn't the right term: anecdotal, maybe. Whether or not fake, it's mostly harmless, unlike propaganda games made up for the powerful oppressors.
ngnn ngnn 9/20/2021 09:32
Isn't the Einstein vs Oppenheimer game just a fake? As far as I know, there is no credible historical source saying that it ever happened.